Marketing sensible eating

by Allison Gibeson
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Despite demonstrating caution over wording on food and beverage packaging, companies increasingly are turning to the word “sensible” to convey responsibility and health and wellness.

“It feels like the word ‘sensible’ for the U.S. market is like what ‘healthy’ was 15 or more years ago…we started to see the word ‘healthy’ show up just about everywhere,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director of consumer packaged goods trend insight at Mintel International, Chicago. “It feels like this is a logical extension of that. It is another word that is poorly defined in the marketplace and by consumers and therefore can be molded into a lot of things. This makes it a really attractive term for C.P.G. companies because it conveys a sense of responsibility and doing the right thing for consumers, but it isn’t so rigid.”

Ms. Dornblaser believes “sensible” products will be the next big trend in portion control as many companies are looking for a way to promote portion control through permission as opposed to restriction. She said the term, which has been used more frequently in the past year, is almost exclusively being used to define portion control and has not been linked to other types of claims.

Despite the increased usage, Ms. Dornblaser said she doubts the word “sensible” will ever become regulated like “healthy,” because it may mean so many different things.

The Hain Celestial Group, Melville, N.Y., offers a line of snacks called Sensible Portions. Stephanie Galliano, a spokesperson for Hain Celestial, said “sensible” in the brand name refers to the fact the products are made from natural ingredients, have no trans fat, are cholesterol free, have less fat than traditional snacks and are generously portioned for fewer calories. She said “portion” in the brand name means consumption is in a controlled serving.

The Sensible Portions line was launched in 2002, and Ms. Galliano said “sensible” is not a fad but a long-lasting trend as consumers focus on natural ingredients, taste, value and health.

“Portion control has been proven to help many live a healthier way of life,” Ms. Galliano said. “With our ‘sensible seal’ we wanted to give consumers the same satisfaction with a snack. We focus less on pumping our products with vitamins and nutrients and more on packing a portioned, great-tasting crunch. When a product becomes ‘too healthy,’ it often sacrifices taste. No one craves a piece of cardboard, but we do hear about cravings for Veggie Straws.”

Ms. Dornblaser emphasized the Sensible Portions products focus on the natural benefits of the ingredients used.

“The whole idea of talking about sensible conveys goodness in some way, conveys the positives about eating properly as opposed to talking about the negatives of eating properly (meaning you can’t have this, you can’t have that),” she said. “That to me does go hand-in-hand with the focus on the goodness of ingredients.”

Ms. Dornblaser said the softer message with “sensible” is beneficial in that it becomes a more inclusive message. Specifically, products that claim to be diet, low-fat or reduced calorie often tend to be looked at more exclusively by those who are actively watching their weight. But products labeled as “sensible” appeal to a broader audience.

One product that may seem to contradict this sentiment is The Biggest Loser Simply Sensible Fresh Entrees from Harris Food Group, Miami. Marty MacDowell, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Harris Foods Group, said while using The Biggest Loser in the title refers to dramatic weight loss, the show is about developing sensible eating and lifestyle habits, not about crash diets. She said the show teaches consumers how to regain control of food choices.

She also said the products being “simple” is equally as important, as many consumers don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to create a sensible dinner from scratch, and the products are chef-inspired and ready in minutes. The products were developed with the goal of helping consumers make simple and sensible food and lifestyle choices, she said, adding that satiety and quality are important aspects of portion control.

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